21st century Cornwall: Developers Won, Paradise Lost? As Cornwall seeks to introduce planning charge, a new group is formed to pressure councillors



This week Cornwall Council is asking residents, businesses and developers for their views on proposals to introduce a planning charge on new developments in Cornwall which can then supposedly be used to fund infrastructure projects such as new or safer road schemes, flood defences, new schools and health facilities, and improvements to parks and green spaces in local areas.

The Community Infrastructure Levy, known as CIL, allows only those councils with a Local Plan to introduce the charge. Cornwall’s plan, several years in the making, was adopted late last year.  The charges will apply to retail development and all sizes of housing development and will be used to part replace funding collected through S106 agreements and will be charged as a fixed tariff per square metre of new floor space created by developments.

 This will mean it will affect small as well as large developments.

“New development needs to be supported by physical, social and green infrastructure” said Edwina Hannaford, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning. “Almost all development has some impact on the need for infrastructure, services and amenities, or benefits from them, so it is only fair that such development pays a fair share of the costs

“It is also fair that those who benefit financially when planning permission is given, should share some of that gain with the community which granted it. By paying a contribution developers will help fund the infrastructure needed to support development and make development acceptable and sustainable.”

Town and Parish Councils will receive more if they have an adopted Neighbourhood plan. Formal consultation runs until Tuesday, 14 February.

The most famous “Neighbourhood Plan” in the country was that adopted by St Ives last year when it agreed to ban any new builds becoming second homes or holiday lets.

In our recent CornishStuff.com poll  a massive 87% of respondents said they would support a St Ives style ban to be extended to the whole of Cornwall. Many other Town councils in Cornwall will hope to follow suit soon.

As you may have also read on CS this week, developers wishing to build on brownfield land at the entrance to the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site in Pool have been given permission to build a Travelodge, fast food drive-ins and a Marstons pub. The main controversy was that this was the first opportunity that councillors had of using the new Local Plan to stop generic corporate buildings and insist they will be built to fit in with the surroundings. The Local Plan was sold to us on the understanding that local needs would be given priority. The developers refused to give in to the design concerns and the councillors on the planning committee caved in and rubber stamped the application. There was understandably an outburst of protest at the weak councillors.

It’s this “unfocussed energy” that has led to a new pressure group being formed in Cornwall this week. Charter for Cornwall has been formed by the people who run the popular anti-developers Facebook group “It’s our Cornwall”  and they told CS that the group will seek to be a “conduit for the unfocused energy we see around us – we are an essay in grassroots activism.  Let’s make a better Cornwall together”

Charter for Cornwall will pressure those seeking election to the Council in May, when all Cornwall Council seats will be up for grabs, to pledge to support 4 commitments when they do get elected.

A launch statement on charterforcornwall.com  says:

“We believe that we cannot give way to despair and apathy. We have to use what democratic rights are left to us to challenge Cornwall Council’s narrow and short-sighted strategy. Elections in May provide one opportunity to make our voices heard and make our future an issue.

We are not alone. Across Cornwall local groups have been campaigning against massive, speculative and unnecessary housing projects. Over 7,000 people have signed the CPRE’s petition Save Cornwall’s Green Fields, calling for a change in the planning system. Over 70 town and parish councils have supported Cornwall for Change, which is demanding a change in direction at Cornwall Council. Posts on the It’s Our Cornwall facebook page about building projects reach an average 2,000 people daily and sometimes as many as 10,000″.

 People are dismayed, worried and angry about what they see around them. But anger and sadness too often leads to despair. That despair has to be transformed into hope. We can change things. We can take back control of our future. This is a first step”.

The statement continued,

“We will campaigns to increase community-level influence over the future of our land. We need to change Cornwall Council for the better by electing better councillors. We need a Council that is more open, more responsive and more willing to listen to residents’ concerns. In the short-term we will be supporting those candidates in next May’s local elections who stand for our values. In the longer-term we must work to end the Council’s pursuit of unsustainable growth policies”

The four ‘principles’ of the new group are to

  • Protect our Cornish heritage (“Councillors have been unable to stop Cornwall becoming an easy ride for property developers”)

  • Provide genuinely affordable housing (“The Government has cynically redefined ‘affordability’ to include housing at 80% of market prices that are simply unaffordable for most local people”)

  • Put limits on second homes (“The extension of second home ownership has destroyed community life in many of our coastal towns and villages”)

  • Plan for Cornish communities, not developers’ profits (“The planning system is rigged. Blatantly unsound data have been used to drive the housing target up to an unnecessary 52,500 minimum”)

The group has spent the last few weeks gathering contributions and support from various political groups, including KMTU who support the initiative. Formed by Pete Burton, Bernard Deacon, Julie Fox The Charter for Cornwall will roll out in three phases in Feb – May with the first phase to agree on the final wording of the pledges Councillors will be asked to commit to.

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